Originally created 03/05/02

Pass-fail test is best



Georgia educators are getting antsy as the state prepares to implement more pass-fail standardized testing in the public school system.

Randy Morrison, director of instruction for the Oconee County school system, spoke for many of his colleagues when he told the state Board of Education, "I don't know if there is any teacher, principal or administrator who is not concerned about this."

Under the plan proposed by Gov. Roy Barnes and approved overwhelmingly by the Georgia General Assembly in the 2001 session, state reading and math tests will be used to determine whether third, fifth and eighth graders are ready to advance to the next grade.

Critics say standardized tests unfairly punish minority students and those from poor families. Though it's not unfair, the critics do have a point. This year, black and Hispanic students trailed their white classmates on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test by significant margins, especially in math.

But why should that indicate the tests shouldn't be given? Poor scores should point to a problem that needs to be dealt with - not run away from.

Besides, State Board of Education members, who will iron out details of implementing the tests, say they've heard mostly positive responses from educators in their districts.

Critics countered that most educators don't complain because they view the testing as inevitable. "There are many, many educators who don't think we've made a sound educational decision or a humane decision," said Franklin Shumake, a career educator who publishes a newsletter sometimes critical of the state's education policies.

This newspaper also has some misgivings, but these are the reforms that are in place and they are much better than sticking with social promotions, a disastrous practice that allows lazy educators not to teach and lazy students not to learn.

Moreover, much of the criticisms overlook other aspects of the education reform package that are designed to help struggling students, such as more tutoring programs and smaller classes.

Obviously no reform package is going to be 100 percent successful. There will be mistakes and mid-course corrections all along the way. So let's stop complaining and get started.